Social Connectivity & the Classroom
My school has a list of 12 rules it calls “Non-Negotiables.” These are twelve hard and fast rules that students know they are not to break, or theoretically that’s how it is supposed to go. In reality, most of my students routinely break the non-negotiables. One in particular is commonly broken, and that is the rule that no cell phones are to be used in school for any purposes. To be fair, this is not only a school rule, but a district-wide “Chancellor’s Regulation.” My students cannot resist pulling out the phones and social networking, texting, posting photos, etc. They have been conditioned in the era of connectivity and rebel when they are being stripped of their tools to connect.
I am fully on board with the *logic* behind restricting cell phone use. Cell phones present not just a distraction in the classroom, but also a danger. The devices can create a theft hazard, as well as a safety hazard with relation to publicizing fights, recording students and teachers with video or photos, etc. With the goal of propelling our students into higher education and gainful employment, I believe that the logic of a cell phone ban quickly falls apart. In higher education, students will be allowed to use many different technological tools to aid them in their education. Similarly, the 21st century workplace is becoming more and more high tech and students should learn how to effectively utilize their technology to help them succeed. I am a proponent of amending the cell phone use regulations and instead requiring student-parent-teacher contracts about cell phone use in school. Or, at the very least, let schools decide for themselves.
Connecting back to “social connectivity,” I see so many of my students engaged in cyber conversations and creating content online. What if I could harness this engagement to the classroom? I have already implemented a homework policy where students can text and email homework assignments (which are typically thought questions related to the day’s lesson). I have seen a significantly higher rate of student participation in homework assignments. Furthermore, what if we made learning something that went on throughout the day of a student, with twitter conversations, Instagram photo contests, blog posts and discussion boards, and more?! By harnessing these tools outside of the classroom, we can better engage our students in what they are learning. If they could even use their technology in the classroom, you can complete the circle of engagement and connectivity. I am hoping to receive feedback from the Chancellor on cell phone use and whether teachers can implement Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. I am hopeful that next year, I will be able to harness student cell phone use for the higher purposes of learning.
And now for something (not completely, but still) different.
In recent news, Google is allowing “Explorers” to apply to be a part of testing the new Google Glass. If you haven’t seen what it can do, check out this video. I have thought about applying, just because I believe that this device represents a breakthrough in the way we use technology. Right now, most technology requires us to be paying attention to it instead of the world around us. We look down at our iPhones instead of engaging with the people in front of us. With the Google Glass, I could see that all changing.
With Glass, people would look at each other and interact while experiencing the world through an incredible technology.
People would look around and see the world, rather than look down and miss it. The Glass would enhance the world, rather than replace it. Which is what I think should be the goal of any good technological breakthrough.
Personally, I would love to use Glass to record my classroom (with student permission of course) and be more reflecting of how I instruct my students. I would use it to connect the world and the places I go with what I teach, relaying back to students through blogs and social media. I could even use it to answer excellent and puzzling questions from students right on the spot.
But even more importantly, even if I don’t buy Glass until it comes out for everyone, I look forward to a world where connectivity isn’t measured by Twitter followers, but by the real life conversations we have and then share using our technology.